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Langmuir. 2013 Nov 12;29(45):13943-50. doi: 10.1021/la403706r. Epub 2013 Oct 30.

Enhanced molecular transport in hierarchical silicalite-1.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst , 686 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, United States.


Fundamental understanding of the mass transport of petrochemical and biomass derived molecules in microporous and mesoporous solid catalysts is important for developing the next generation of heterogeneous catalysts for traditional hydrocarbon processing including biomass pyrolysis and upgrading. Hierarchical zeolites with both micropores and mesopores exhibit enhanced mass transport and unique catalytic performance in reactions involving large molecules. However, quantitative description of mass transport in such materials remains elusive, owing to the complicated structure of hierarchical pores and difficulty in the synthesis of the materials with controllable structures. In this work, zero length column chromatography (ZLC) was used to study temperature-dependent diffusion of cyclohexane in silicalite-1, self-pillared pentasil (SPP) zeolite, and three-dimensionally ordered mesoporous imprinted (3DOm-i) silicalite-1. The samples were synthesized with controllable characteristic diffusion lengths from micrometer scale (ca. 20 μm) to nanometer scale (ca. 2 nm), allowing systematic study of the effect of mesoporosity on the mass transport behavior of hierarchical zeolites. The results show that the introduction of mesoporosity can indeed significantly facilitate the mass transport of cyclohexane in hierarchical silicalite-1 by reducing diffusional time constants, indicating rapid overall adsorption and desorption. However, when the length scale of the material approaches several nanometers, the contribution from the surface resistance, or "surface barrier", to overall mass transfer becomes dominant.

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